Curmudgeon’s Corner: A Familiar Dragon

My First Reader and life-partner offered to do occasional posts for me, reviews, or general ramblings. I told him I’d create a Curmudgeon’s Corner for him, so he could feel free to be as pointed and trenchant with his comments and viewpoints as he is in real life. The man is a great evil muse, and has a sense of humor in alignment with that. Enjoy, and join me in encouraging him to keep doing this on occasion.

  A Familiar Dragon

an omnibus by Daniel Hood

We got this book because the recommendation we saw made it look like a good book for the children.  I also thought it might be a cute light fantasy for myself to read and so read it first. This was a good decision. While it isn’t particularly graphic there is adultery, murder, fornication, and oral sex in the first book Fanulih. The murder was part of the blurb so wouldn’t have been that big a deal since it was handled tastefully. The adultery and oral sex are another matter. This is very mild for an adult book or even, from what I understand, a modern YA. Still not something I want to give to children and young teens. I will stipulate that the book was not marketed as a children’s book but the blurb did read as though it were appropriate.

Now that I have disposed of the book as a children’s fantasy it is time to look at it as a work. There are 5 books in this series though the omnibus only covers the first 3. I assume someone found them worthwhile since five were published, and collected in the omnibus. I don’t see it personally.

We’ll start with the personality of the protagonist. Basically he is a whiner passing himself off as a strong silent type. He spends much of the first 3 books lying to himself and others by omission. His background is that of a noble’s scion from a more northerly realm whose father was defeated and killed when he was 18. He has been a ship’s surgeon, Captain, mercenary, lead investigator in multiple cases, and killed a demigod. All of which he downplays to the reader in favor of being a scholar in the first work, apprentice thief in the second and worthless vagabond in the third. His deference to nobles, the wealthy and even supercilious servants is totally out of character for someone with his background. Instead of whining about his treatment at the hands of rich people’s servants when they are not around he would have brought them to heel. One reared as the scion of a noble in a feudal martial culture does not brook insolence from servants. Nor  does one who has been a leader of men with independent command pule and whine at tasks. Spineless is not a reasonable description of a mercenary captain.

As to the “mysteries” he solves. He ignores blatant clues because people he knows cannot be bad, even if they are involved up to their eyebrows. He spends the entire first book fumbling and it is “solved” by what amounts to little more than a Deus Ex Machina which was telegraphed halfway through the book. The second book resurrects a dead mage in the last page to “solve” the case. I have no idea what happens in the third book because I was unable to finish it. I just couldn’t push past more of the self-deprecation.

Now to hit some of the positives. Several of his minor characters are well delineated and interesting. Had he gathered them into a cohort it could have worked as an ensemble where the protagonist was shown to be one of those with a knack for drawing and inspiring a band instead of worthwhile in his own right. That wasn’t done but Hood did draw the characters to the protagonist and then dropped them. The world was adequately built though it is a fairly standard fantasy setting. He deals well with magic by the simple expedient of not knowing much about it.

All in all I would say to save your money and time for something better but, it isn’t horrible and is mostly readable if you can accept a protagonist who does not live up to his background